90 days from today is Tue, 27 February 2024
1 March 2023
A huge rise in police officers taking sick days due to mental health issues reflects the increasing workload and traumatic incidents that officers face, Norfolk Police Federation has said.
New figures show that police officers in England took more than 730,000 sick days last year – up from 320,000 in 2012/13.
Norfolk Police Federation Chair Andy Symonds said: “The simple reason why this is happening is the sheer amount of work that’s been placed at our door, over and above what the police service should be doing.
“The ambulance service, mental health trusts and social services have all had hits on their budgets, therefore have stepped back. So people in mental health crisis, people who need an ambulance when they’re seriously ill, are getting police officers coming out to them. We’re seeing a massive increase in those types of calls and officers are getting burnt out because they’ve got their own crime work.
“Cops are also going to more traumatic incidents. I spoke to an officer a few days ago who had gone to three sudden deaths in a set of shifts, and they all have an impact. It’s the same with road traffic collisions. We’re seeing much more traffic on our roads, but we haven’t had an increase in our Roads and Armed Policing team for a number of years now.
“So, on a more regular basis, those same officers are going to many more serious and fatal collisions and seeing some awful scenes. Just because we wear a uniform doesn’t make us impervious to grief and death. The workload has eroded away officers’ resilience and more people are being pushed over to the other side where they feel that they need a break from work, otherwise they’ll get really ill.”
But the police service was not good enough at picking up early signs of mental ill health, said Andy. He explained: “We need to get better at that and we need to have better workplace health budgets. In Norfolk, officers have to wait quite a period of time before they get to see their force medical advisor.
“The Federation is lobbying and negotiating on behalf of our members to increase the capacity in workplace health, so that it’s more of a proactive service. Also, trying to persuade the PCC to use some of the budget in occupational health.”
Andy added: “If officers are struggling with their mental health, please speak to your supervisor or to someone here at the Federation. We’ve got workplace Reps that are in and around stations, and they’re all trained in mental health first aid.”